During National Park Week, the country celebrates “America’s best idea” with nine days of adventure, service and fun.
In other words, the rest of the U.S. does exactly what Scouts do the other 51 weeks of the year.
National Park Week 2019 is so big it can’t be contained to a standard seven-day week. It runs nine days: from April 20 to 28.
With the big week approaching fast, check out seven ways to celebrate the decades-long friendship between Scouting and the National Park Service.
1. Save money on April 20, a fee-free day
National Park Week 2019 kicks off with a free-entrance day on Saturday, April 20.
Parks that normally charge an entrance fee — from Acadia National Park in Maine to Zion National Park in Utah — are free on April 20.
The fee-free list includes parks in 36 different states, plus Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Can’t make it out on April 20? Here’s a full list of this year’s fee-free days.
2. Go to a park you haven’t yet visited
Have you tried the park service’s Find a Park tool?
It lets you organize the 490 listings by state, activity (astronomy, caving, paddling) or topic (American Revolution, geology, women’s history).
When you select a state, the site gives you a fascinating “by the numbers” box detailing the National Park Service’s impact on that state. Pick Pennsylvania, for example, and you’ll see that the state has 19 national parks with more than 10 million visitors each year.
Try it with your state and find a new-to-you historic site, scenic trail or battlefield to visit during National Park Week.
3. Organize a hike + park cleanup day
Before Scouts leave a national park, monument or historic site, they do more than just clean up after themselves. They pick up other people’s trash, too, gathering garbage left by people who will never know that someone erased their trace.
We call that “leaving a place better than you found it,” and it’s one of the core tenants of Scout camping.
National Park Week, which includes Earth Day on April 22, presents a great opportunity to combine a national park visit with a cleanup project.
Contact the park before you go to learn about the area of greatest need. Unlike projects that involve trail maintenance or erosion mitigation, trash pickup requires little advance notice or lead time. All you need is some garbage bags and gloves.
4. Remember microtrash
Litter that’s small enough to be ingested by wildlife is called microtrash.
Bottle caps, gum wrappers, glass, cigarette butts, fruit labels, and other broken-down bits of trash present a danger to animals, who could choke on the items.
The next time you’re picking up garbage, leave no detail overlooked by focusing on microtrash. Make it into a competition: The patrol or den that finds the most gets a prize.
5. Incorporate some National Park Week theme days
Each day of National Park Week has its own theme. See which one corresponds to your next pack, troop or crew meeting and make that part of the meeting plan.
- Saturday, April 20: National Junior Ranger Day
- Sunday, April 21: Military & Veterans Recognition Day
- Monday, April 22: Earth Day
- Tuesday, April 23: Transportation Tuesday
- Wednesday, April 24: Wild Wednesday
- Thursday, April 25: Throwback Thursday
- Friday, April 26: Friendship Friday
- Saturday, April 27: BARK Ranger Day
- Sunday, April 28: Park Rx Day
6. Recognize your troop’s Eagle Scouts
Honor your Eagle Scouts at the next troop meeting with this certificate from the National Park Service.
The certificate is free to download, but it’s posted based on the honor system. That means it should only be used after the Scout earns Eagle.
7. Earn the Scout Ranger certificate or patch
The National Park Service’s Scout Ranger program encourages Scouts to build greater connections to their national parks.
There are two levels of Scout Ranger: certificate and patch.
- Scout Ranger certificate: Scouts participate in organized education activities and/or volunteer service projects for a minimum of five hours at one or more national parks.
- Scout Ranger patch: Scouts participate in organized educational activities and/or volunteer service projects for a minimum of 10 hours at one or more national parks.
Looking for volunteer opportunities scheduled in your area? Go here.